When the day finally arrived, I prepared myself mentally as best as I could. I listened to the conversations around me. I was desperately trying to fill my brain with other lives. I was nervous and scared about the consequences. I had few friends, but I questioned what would happen if they knew I went to the “weird girl’s” house. I looked at my reflection in the bus window. My eyes had dark circles from lack of sleep. My hair was styled with gel, and usually it was rock hard, but the open window was loosening the gel’s hold. My palms sweated, and I wiped them on my pants. We had agreed that I’d go to her house to start the project.
When we came to her driveway I noticed her house was not small but comfy. Her front yard had beautiful azaleas, roses, bushes shaped like animals and tiny little gnomes that speckled the flowerbeds. There was a crisp smell of flowers in the air. The house was painted yellow with a purple front door. I felt as if I’d gone to Wonderland. There were Christmas lights on the trees embedded in the bark in front of her house.
At her door Siobhán stuck her key in and said, “Alohomora.” She turned to me with a big grin. She opened the door. “Welcome to Jurassic Park.”
A dog as big as a house was waiting for her on the other side. It was a chocolate lab with big brown eyes. His tail was wagging, and he barked in surprise.
“Ruff, ruff, ruff!” Siobhán answered back to the dog. “Don’t mind him, that’s just Rex. He won’t hurt anyone. Won’t you Rex?” I could smell the dog food before I saw it in the corner of the kitchen. It wasn’t a very strong smell but it was there nonetheless. “He’s just not used to new people, isn’t that right Rex?”
I could see the living room from where I stood. The walls were a dark green and the television was on, but there was no one there. My heart sped up a bit because I thought we were going to be alone. Inside the house there was a coffee table with a deck of cards sprawled out. The queen of hearts was on the edge, getting ready to fall. I was struck with how hard it appeared to hold on to the corner. A futile attempt, as it turned out. At that moment, a door opened, and the breeze blew the queen to the ground. A woman stepped out of her bedroom dressed in pink overalls with her hair in two pigtails. The woman ran excitedly with a big goofy smile on her face. She wore clothes made for children, but her face was wrinkled. Her make-up had the look of being applied messily and rushed like a child who still didn’t know how to color in the lines. Siobhán turned to me and whispered, “Don’t mind my mom. She’s crazy.”
“Hi Lucy, where’s mom?” Siobhán asked.
“She went out, but she’ll be back. Want to play? It’s so boring,” The woman answered with a squeaky voice that was obviously forced.
“We’ll play a little later. I have to do some school stuff with my friend. This is Ivan.”
“Hi, Ivan. Are you here to play with me?” Her teeth were speckled with lipstick. Her breath smelled like bubblegum. Not the minty kind but the Bubble Yum that was filled with more sugar than peppermint. She reached out and shook my hand. It was moist with sweat, but Lucy showed no signs of nervousness. She smelled of spiced perfume, the type of perfume that older women wear. Lucy was a real life female Peter Pan.
“No Lucy. I told ya, we have some work to do,” Siobhán answered, somewhat annoyed.
There were things I didn’t understand at that point. The first thoughts in my head were who was this woman, and why is she dressed like a child. My eyes were wide—I’m sure—with wonder. I was awed at how they acted. The air around them was light, and they interacted more like siblings, but I was sure that Siobhán had said that this was her mother. She was like no mother I ever saw. There was something about her that scared me.
“We’re going up to my room. Ok, Lucy? You want to watch some Mickey? If you need something, come and ask.”
Siobhán looked in their DVD collection. She found what she was looking for and put it in the player. She went to the kitchen and grabbed some caramel rice cakes. Lucy took them and sat down on the couch as she snacked.
She turned to me. “Come, hobbitses,” she whispered, “let’s go to my room.”
In the hallway there were pictures in frames. Some had a younger Siobhán, and others were of two boys. Twins. They were younger than her, possibly her brothers. Still others had a woman – Lucy? But dressed more mature and not like the Lucy in the living room. There was also a bearded man with gentle eyes and a smile that reminded me of a cat. My fingers glided against the wall. There were grains that gently scratched my fingers and gave the house an old aesthetic. The house was sort of hot, and I could feel sweat collecting on the base of my back. Siobhán’s room was very neat. One wall was purple, another was filled from floor to ceiling with photos. It was an impressive collage. On the two remaining walls were posters.
We worked on the project. Her focus and knowledge surprised me – she was meticulous and paid attention to details that I didn’t. There was a CD player by her bed. The buttons were worn down. Her bed was soft, and her covers were Asian inspired. The parts of my skin that touched the covers felt the incredible warmth of the sheets. She played music as we worked. Songs by Rammstein, a German heavy metal band, I later learned. There was a part that she began to sing along:
“Let me hear you
Without your television.”
It was funny how that part stuck out to her. Whether consciously or unconsciously, she was speaking from experience.